Nicklaus-Doak collaboration in Southampton, NY,
hosts 156 women from 23 countries
Among the many loves of Jack Nicklaus are seaside golf and USGA Championships. This week those two loves share the same frame when his collaborative design at Sebonack Golf Club, overlooking the picturesque Peconic Bay in Southampton, New York, hosts the U.S. Women’s Open.
Sebonack is the spectacular 7-year-old co-design of Nicklaus and Tom Doak—a Top-100 layout that debuted in 2006 to rave reviews and won Golf Digest’s award for the “Best New Private Course in America.” Beginning Thursday, America’s national championship will be played out on this links layout that showcases wide, undulating playing areas, waste dunes, rugged bunkering, and large greens with plenty of spice and challenging movement. It is the vision of owner Michael Pascucci—a Nicklaus neighbor in North Palm Beach, Florida, and member at The Bear’s Club—and the first-ever co-design by Nicklaus and Doak. There are elements distinctive to each designer.
Nicklaus focused on strategy; Doak on the greens; and the two collaborated on Sebonack’s breathtaking look.
“I think it’s a terrific golf course,” said Nicklaus, the four-time U.S. Open champion and designer of more than 290 courses worldwide, including close to 100 that have hosted a professional tournament. “I think it’s a fun golf course to play.
“I think they need to accept it for what it is—it is a seaside golf course with some movement in the fairways and some movement in the greens, but one that they have to produce good golf shots on, and one that they are going to have a good short game if they want to win a U.S. Open. I think that’s what a U.S. Open is all about—to be able to use all the clubs in your bag.”
For more history and insight on Sebonack, read this entertaining piece David Shedloski wrote for the USGA that is available on USGA.org at http://bit.ly/16zWHBL.
In addition, to hear comments about Sebonack from players in this week’s field, watch the following USGA video:
The first two rounds of this week’s U.S. Women’s Open will air on ESPN2 from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. ET, while NBC will pick up the weekend coverage from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
This week’s field of the best women’s players the world has to offer boasts 156 golfers from no fewer than 23 countries and 19 states, including South Korea’s Na Yeon Choi, who returns to defend her 2012 Open title.
The 68th U.S. Women’s Open Championship marks only the fifth time the championship has been conducted in New York State.
”Women’s golf has been on a tremendous rise and there is a wealth of talented players from all corners of the world,” Nicklaus said. “A national championship is a prestigious thing to have. The USGA thought enough of the facility at Sebonack to hold a national championship there, and that makes me feel good.”
Ben Kimball, the USGA’s director of the U.S. Women’s Open, recognized the relative youth of the Sebonack track, but concedes that there is a maturity belying the design.
“Sebonack Golf Club is finding itself as a newcomer to the USGA championship schedule this summer, but I expect to find that the course performs like a wily veteran,” Kimball said.
“It has all the qualities of a great U.S. Open golf course,” said 2007 U.S. Women’s Open Champion Cristie Kerr. “You know, there’s going to be scoring opportunities but there are going to be tough par-4s and holes you definitely need to hang on to your hat, so to speak, and there are holes you need to try and make birdies.
“You really have to have guts to play that golf course well for four days, and you have to have a lot of patience.”
The Nicklaus-Doak product neighbors venerable National Golf Links of America (site of the 2013 Walker Cup) and shares the same ZIP code as Shinnecock Hills, which has hosted four U.S. Open Championships for the men. Yet Sebonack quickly earned its own reputation, and it didn’t take long for word to leak out about the venue and location, which piqued the USGA’s interest.
Then-USGA Executive Director B. Fay and then-Senior Director of Rules and Competitions Mike Davis, who has since taken over as Executive Director, both made visits and agreed that the course could host a national championship. They decided on the Women’s Open. The Championship has previously been conducted in the state of New York at two clubs: Winged Foot in Mamaroneck (1957, 1972) and the Country Club of Rochester (1953, 1973).
“I think in some ways, you approach most golf course designs with a ‘championship’ in mind,” Nicklaus said, “meaning a good golf course design should be able to meet the needs of all golfers, be it the beginner, the average player, or, in the case of Sebonack, the best players in the world. Every golf course has a back course, a front course, and so forth. You try to make sure it has the variety in it so that it can handle all levels of golfers. Did I know that Michael Pascucci wanted to have an Open at Sebonack? No. But the golf course is certainly designed so that it is capable of having such.”
Sebonack will play at 6,821 yards and to a par of 35-37—72 for the championship. The first nine is just under 500 yards shorter due to the fact that the second nine features three par 5s, including the stunning 523-yard finishing hole that runs parallel to Peconic Bay and can be reached in two to create possible final-round drama.
The championship routing also has been slightly altered, with players starting on what is normally the club’s second hole. The club’s first hole will be the ninth hole. Nothing was changed to the second nine. Kimball also said rough will be eliminated between fairways and bunkers, requiring competitors to control tee shots better. Closely mown areas will also be featured around many of the putting surfaces.
“The difficulty in Sebonack is around the greens,” Nicklaus said. “The golf course is pretty wide open and playable off the tee, but it helps to flight your ball as you enter into the greens at Sebonack. You can play bounce-in shots in a lot of places, but you’ve still got to flight your ball on many occasions.”
For more information on the U.S. Women’s Open, visit www.usga.org.